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Mentoring Matters for Assistant and Associate Principals and Deans: November 2017

Leadership-life Fit: Stop and Smell the Roses

Five simple strategies for taking time to re-center, re-group, and refresh each day so that you can always play your “A” game. 

Leadership 101: The 10 Pitfalls of Successful School Leadership

As you close out these first few months of school, take a moment to view your leadership from the balcony. Are you steering clear of those things that can undermine your success? A former Florida principal of the year, Dr. Allan Bonilla, shares insights gained from his many years of experience (Corwin Connect).

1.     Low visibility.

2.     Office fixation.

3.     Lack of delegation. (This checklist can help you determine areas where you need to improve your delegation skills. More insight re: delegation here.)

4.     Programs over people.

5.     Dictatorial style.

6.     Lack of praise and acknowledgment.

7.     Criticizing and discouraging.

8.     Focusing on negatives.

9.     Failure to control mood.

10.   Failure to keep students first.

Read the full article

Managing Email: Fight the Flood

Do persistent pinging and flashing banners distract you from the task at hand? Do you intend just to answer a few messages but get sucked in by the 20 new ones that land in your box? Is your email owning you? Take control with these strategies.

October’s Principal Leadership offers a number of ideas for navigating the deluge of email messages and we’ve added a few more:

1. Know your email platform. What rules might you create to allow some messages to go directly to a file or folder? Can you schedule action on an email for a later date? What tools exist within the system that can help you organize?

2. Can you create a canned response? You likely receive multiple messages from different sources for which the reply is the same—consider creating and saving these replies in a Google Doc (or other) for cutting and pasting later.

3. Can you give your office assistant access to your email? Or, forward the canned response messages to him/her to respond?

4. Unsubscribe from things you don’t need.

5. Don’t enable notifications on either your phone or your computer. (I finally shut off my banner notifications on my computer and hid my dock to eliminate that distraction). Now, I have to be intentional about going to my email app.

6. Designate specific time or times during the day during which you’ll handle email—some principals choose to include a note in their signature line communicating the times during which they read and respond to email.

7. Delete without reading those messages you don’t need –you can tell by the title and author.

8. Don’t respond unless necessary – it’s not Facebook or Twitter, so don’t take the time to reply with an OK, Thanks, or other similar type response.

9.  When you work through your email, handle both the simple and the complex. The temptation is to quickly work through the “easy” ones and then to save the more time-consuming for a later date. Although you may not be able to address all of the complex messages in one sitting, you should be able to address some so that they don’t pile up.

10. Use newsletters, blogs, the school website to assist in your communication. Refer people (staff and stakeholders) to these resources to communicate the message that important information is available there and to help people develop the habit of going there first.

Tips for sending email—set the stage with staff that email should be managed and processed quickly.

1. Be as specific as possible about the content of the message in the subject line.

2. Organize the message around key points and be clear about any action needed and by whom.

3. Use CC and To with purpose and intent. If the name appears in the To line, it communicates information necessary to the recipient or action needed. A name in the CC line indicates an FYI. Perhaps, you don’t want to be included at all if it’s just FYI—you’ll have to decide what system works best for you.

4. One email = one topic. It’s not more efficient to lump multiple topics together in a single message. It makes filing difficult and may not pertain to everyone who is copied.

5. Hold discussions in person, not via email.

Leading Learning—Leading and Teaching with a Sense of Urgency:

Phi Delta Kappan author and assistant principal, Joanne Kelleher, challenges us to create a sense of urgency to spark learning. She’s not talking about moving so fast we leave learners behind or racing to the top. She is talking about igniting the “spark of energy students need to engage in the difficult tasks” before them and then maximizing instructional time. Check out a list of look-fors in classrooms where urgency is valued by both students and teachers and see why the idea of urgency is gaining momentum.


What it is…

What it isn’t…

A mindset of high expectations

A race

Highly positive and focused energy

Moving so quickly some learners are left behind

Practices that convey high expectations

Skipping topics in order to move ahead

A set of characteristics that motivate and inspire learning

An abstract focus on standardized tests and educational reform

Passion, enthusiasm, and energy emanating from the teacher

A faster is better proposition

Created and recreated

Practicing for high-stakes tests


Establishing a sense of urgency

Look-fors when a classroom has a sense of urgency present:

·  Efficient classroom routines

o   Students know what supplies and materials they need and what to do once seated (anticipatory set).

o   Students know how much time they have to complete designated tasks.

o   Transitions are seamless—students know when and how to move from one activity to the next.

·  Every minute of instructional time is used.

·  Pacing – the teacher varies activities around the same topic to give the “illusion of speed.” Students like to feel they are doing something new and as though they are making progress. Effective pacing means students don’t feel rushed nor do they feel time is dragging.

·  Teacher feedback to students indicates the teacher values students’ efficient use of time.

·  Purposeful planning – attributes of lessons that create urgency

o   Student-generated short- and long-term goals.

o   Opportunities for students to collaborate with an expert in the field.

o   Student choice –studies show that providing choice is a quick way to increase student urgency.

o   Authentic, important tasks with opportunities for application beyond the classroom.

o   An audience for the work.

Citing John Hattie, Kelleher notes that teachers need to be “active, passionate, and engaged” in the act of teaching and learning. She contends that creating a sense of urgency engages students, helps them to focus, and energizes the learning.

Read the full article (subscription required)

Questions for Reflection:

 1. What routines do your teachers use to maximize instructional time?

 2. How do teachers help students understand why the learning is valuable?

 3. How do you as leader of learning utilize routines to maximize professional learning time?

 4. How do you help staff understand the value of their professional learning?

 5. Do your staff know you are passionate about leading and learning?

 6. Is the spark in your eye shining brightly?

 7. What is the level of energy in your building?

 8. Where is that energy focused?

 9. Have your students identified goals for themselves? Have your teachers?

10. What opportunities do your students have to collaborate with experts in the field?

11. When do you collaborate with experts in the field?

12. What is the sense of urgency among your staff? In your own leadership?

What One Assistant Principal Learned Shadowing a Student for a Day:

In this PBS video interview, see a freshman student’s experience through the eyes of his AP who shadows him for the day. What might you learn about your students’ experience in your school by doing the same?

Watch the video

Reflective Questions:

1. Why might you shadow a student for a day?

2. What would you expect to learn?

3. How might experiencing your building from the student’s perspective help you address a teaching/learning challenge or problem?

What experiences have you had similar to a student shadow experience and what have been the implications for your leadership?

Additionally, the Stanford promotes the Shadow a Student Challenge that offers a toolkit and other resources.

Monthly Checklist:

These lists are intended as a guide

- elementary
- middle level and secondary

We encourage you to process in your mentor-mentee team to identify other items that may need your attention!